Upon further review, Matt Ryan was not as bad as I initially thought.
Obviously, he had the three interceptions and those were not good plays for the Falcons. Two of them were definitely his fault. But one of them I can’t get too mad over. The first interception was on Ryan. He stared down Tony Gonzalez, who tried a double move against Luke Kuechly. Kuechly didn’t bite and Ryan threw it right at him. Because Ryan staring down Gonzalez, the safety left Patrick DiMarco wide open down the sideline. The other interception that was obviously Ryan’s fault was the final one where he tried to throw a quick curl to Drew Davis at the end of the game. The corner read the play the whole way and jumped it.
But I don’t really blame Ryan on the second interception. He could have made a better throw, but it was a good read and a nice anticipatory throw where he threw to a spot. The problem was Harry Douglas was a half-step slow in getting to that spot. Sure, there were a lot of blue jerseys in the vicinity of the throw, but really none of them were in a position to make a play on the throw. The fact that Quintin Mikell was able to get his hand on the throw was sheer luck, more the result of a desperation swipe than because he was in position. Looking back on the play, I have little to no doubt that had that been Roddy White or Julio Jones, they would have caught the ball.
But all that said, it doesn’t mean Ryan played well. I thought he was very tentative in the early going of the game, looking for the checkdown a bit too quickly. On the first third down of the game, he checked down to Steven Jackson, when I think he could have converted on a first down to Douglas. On the opening play of the third possession, he didn’t even look downfield for a throw, just immediately decided to throw to Jacquizz Rodgers in the flat (ultimately for a 1-yard gain). He could have potentially had Douglas on that play on a downfield throw. Also, on the 32-yard pass he threw to Douglas in the third quarter, he under threw him on the out-and-up. It could have been a much bigger gain with better ball placement throwing over Douglas’ outside shoulder.
Other than that play and the 16-yard throw Ryan made over the middle to Douglas that turned in a 41-yard gain thanks to his ability after the catch, I didn’t really see the Falcons try to go deep at all. That was very disappointing after the things I saw last week.
I’m sure you’re noticing how on these missed opportunities, the receiver I’m mentioning is Douglas, and not Davis or Darius Johnson. Well, the obvious reason for that is because neither player really got open. I don’t quite understand why those two receivers are getting so many snaps, while Levine Toilolo is in the single digits. I understand that the playbook that Dirk Koetter developed upon his arrival in Atlanta was going to feature a lot more 3-wide receiver sets due to the presences of White, Jones, and Douglas, alongside Gonzalez. But Jones and White are not playing, and the Falcons need to utilize more two tight end sets. Toilolo is poised to be the incumbent to start at tight end next year, and the Falcons need to find out what they have in him. The Falcons have a fairly good idea what they have in Davis and Johnson: special teamers. But even still, they aren’t in a position where they are going to be logging significant reps anytime soon once this season is over. I know Koetter used to utilize a lot of two-tight end sets during his days at Arizona State, so it’s not like it’s a foreign concept to him. Toilolo played 10 snaps on Sunday, after a combined 15 the two previous weeks. It should be noted that in Jacksonville under Koetter, the No. 2 tight end averaged roughly 20 snaps a game. It makes no sense for Toilolo to be spending so much time on the bench as it’s hurting this team both short-term and long-term.
The offensive line played pretty well. Sam Baker had a solid game in his first back in the lineup. He gave up a hurry on the final drive, but otherwise had a solid game. Lamar Holmes gave up his sack and pressure in the fourth quarter, both to Charles Johnson. You have to give both tackles credit for holding up fairly well against Johnson and Greg Hardy. The interior struggled to block Star Lotulelei one-on-one in the run game, but at times neutralized him with double teams.
I have to give Patrick DiMarco credit, he absolutely destroyed Luke Kuechly on the first play of the fourth quarter. It ultimately was only a one-yard gain by Rodgers on the sweep because he cut it up early, and Peter Konz didn’t maintain his block on Colin Cole. But DiMarco knocked Kuechly silly and that is probably going to be the highlight of his season. Reminded me of Ovie Mughelli in his heyday.
I credited Douglas with the illegal formation that was attributed to Holmes. Douglas wasn’t on the line of scrimmage, while Holmes was.
On the defensive side of the ball, the defense gets credit for keeping the Falcons in the game. I’m not sure they played a great game of football, as I think some of the struggles and stops by the Panthers offense could be attributed more to Cam Newton’s inaccuracy than anything the defense did.
There was pressure through the early part of this game, but in the entire second half of the game, I only counted one hurry and one hit on 16 dropbacks by the Panthers. I credited Massaquoi with the sack on the opening series, since all Osi really did was fall on Newton after Massaquoi took him to the ground. But Osi did get credit for a quarterback hit on that play. On that play, Massaquoi showed a nice bull rush, getting his hands inside and working Jordan Gross back into the pocket. Massaquoi had another pressure nullified by Desmond Trufant’s bogus pass interference call in the second quarter. Overall, he had his best game as a pass rusher, able to utilize the stunt to get to Newton on two occasions.
Paul Worrilow had a bunch of tackles, and several of them were stops (i.e. successes for the defense). Four of his stops came in the final 17 minutes of the game. By then, he had already accumulated around a dozen tackles.
Robert Alford was credited with three blown coverages, although it really should have been two, thanks to a very generous spot given to Ted Ginn at the end of the second quarter. Once again, the Falcons gave up another big play while working in zone coverage. This time it came on 1st-and-20 where Olsen made a 23-yard catch in the third quarter. That ultimately proved to be Trufant’s lone blown coverage, since he should have released off his guy and come up underneath to defend Olsen. I still don’t quite get why the Falcons so easily resort to zone coverage in these long-distance situations. There seems to be multiple times every game where they give up the first down and the zone offers no benefit. William Moore got credited with blowing the coverage on Olsen’s wide open touchdown catch. He completely sold out versus the run, leaving Olsen to sneak behind the defense off the play-action.
Akeem Dent was incorrectly flagged for a face mask, when it was really on Peria Jerry. I also credited the “TEAM” with the 12-men on the field penalty.
There weren’t really many more standout performances, which is why I can’t say the defense played well. Again, there were probably a half dozen big plays left on the field that were due to Newton missing on throws. But because of that, the Falcons stayed in the game, but the offense was unable to capitalize on the numerous opportunities presented to it.
On special teams, to no surprise Jason Snelling returned to his duties on punt coverage. So I guess we won’t be seeing Josh Vaughan again this year. I also noticed that on one punt, the Panthers tried to double Alford as the gunner and left one solitary guy to block Antone Smith at the other gunner spot. Big mistake, as Smith blew by his guy to force a fair catch. Although I do think Smith was out of his lane on the 24-yard punt return by Ginn that helped set up Carolina’s second touchdown with favorable field position. Smith got inside too early, and Ginn was easily able to get to the sideline and break the return.
Advanced Stats from Week 9:
Poor Throws (3): Ryan
Drops (1): Douglas
Key Blocks (2): DiMarco, Reynolds
Missed Blocks (2): Blalock, Konz
Sacks Allowed (1): Holmes
Pressures Allowed (1): Holmes
Hurries Allowed (3): Baker, Blalock, Holmes
Tackles for Loss (2): Moore (1), DeCoud (0.5), Worrilow (0.5)
QB Sacks (1): Massaquoi
QB Pressures (1): Babineaux
QB Hits (5): Umenyiora (2), Massaquoi (1.5), Peters (1.5)
QB Hurries (3): Umenyiora (2), Worrilow (1)
Passes Defended (3): Bartu, Massaquoi, Samuel
Blown Coverages (7): Alford (3), DeCoud (1), Moore (1), Samuel (1), Trufant (1)
Missed Tackles (2): Dent, Samuel
Key Blocked (11): Dent (2), Jerry (2), Peters (2), Worrilow (2), Bartu (1), DeCoud (1), Trufant (1)
Stops (11): Worrilow (4.5), Samuel (2), Trufant (2), Dent (1), Bartu (0.5), DeCoud (0.5), Massaquoi (0.5)
For those of you that are new to the Moneyball game reviewing concept, you can brush up on it by reading this thread in the forums.